I’d forgotten how fun, and frantic, Fringe
can be. Trying to see the bulk of the shows means mad dashes across town to meet tight turn-around times as well as lengthy layovers in The Bus Stop
lobby that offer a chance to discuss and digest the plays.
Last night’s offerings certainly offered lots of food for discussion.
Andrew Bailey takes the oft-produced, one-man autobiographical show form and elevates it to something more than the standard fringe fare. In The Adversary,
tells the story of his experiences as a church caretaker in Vancouver's notorious east side. He brings to life a cast of characters ranging from a new-to-the-streets "sweet-faced girl" to a true psychopath who, for reasons that unfold beautifully in the play, Bailey desperately needs to believe is not beyond redemption. His characterizations reveal the humanity in even the most hardened addicts. This show combines the best of storytelling, self-deprecating humour, physicality, and rigorous moral questioning. My one criticism is that the abrupt ending left me wanting just a little bit more.
Choca (Cry Baby)
There's a real warmth to Kayla Subica's performance in her one-woman show Choca.
She is an engaging performer with a great singing voice. She creates an animated and amusing picture of growing up in Toronto's Portuguese community. Choca
is a very personal and specific story of an emotional journey to reunite with her estranged grandmother, but I left thinking that that was not the story that really should be told. Somewhere, buried in a rather confusing personal narrative, is a bigger story about culture. One that more people would be able to relate to.
This is an ambitious piece that never really gels. The story takes place in a camp of misfits who are part of a traveling freak show. It centres on a female singer, beautiful despite her deformity, who ignites the passion of her brutal husband, a disturbed teen and her own brother. The play is heavy on violence and melodrama, but pacing problems and stilted acting made it hard to engage with. There is however, some crackerjack sword fighting. Just don't sit in the front row!
Kudos to Thugwork Theatre for bringing their entertaining three-man play all the way from Edmonton. The show feels definitely "fringey", with its ad-libbed dialogue and low production values. So why three stars? A cute concept and a charming performance by the actor who played "Dick" made this show well worth $5 and 45 minutes of time.
This show was neither smart enough nor campy enough to rate more than one star. It has the lofty goal of "female empowerment", but watching a sexy girl-gang harass, shoot and stab men while wearing tight shorts and high heals left me feeling sad, not empowered. Wooden performances and incomprehensible logic fails (For instance, a character is stabbed twice, then miraculously healed) left me scratching my head.